News & ToursAugust 6, 2014

The 5 worst decisions in PGA Championship history

By E. Michael Johnson

LOUISVILLE -- The great shots in any tournament's history tend to be the memory makers, but everyone loves a good train wreck, too -- and the PGA Championship has seen its share of doozies. However, not all the missteps have been of the shotmaking variety. Whether brought about by forgetfulness, loose lips, too much bravado or a complete lack of attention to detail, some of the biggest gaffes in the championship's dossier have short-stopped several major dreams. 

The Mystery of the Missing Cup

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If you don't have anything nice to say …

In the 1949 PGA Championship at Virginia's Hermitage C.C., Jim Ferrier was enjoying a 2-up lead through 20 holes on Sam Snead in their 36-hole semifinal match. Problem was, he was enjoying it a little too much. After Snead's putt for a halve on the 20th hole fell short, Ferrier unwisely cracked, "Sam, the object of the game is to get the ball in the hole." The ill-timed remark put a charge in Snead. The Slammer holed a 60-yard wedge on the next hole, unnerving Ferrier so much that he dumped his tee shot in the water on the 22nd hole. His lead gone, Ferrier struggled the rest of the way, eventually losing 3 and 2. Snead won the title the next day.

The Snowman That Wouldn't Melt

Standing three under par in the middle of the third fairway during the final round of the 1987 PGA Championship at Florida's steamy PGA National, Seve Ballesteros appeared to be a good bet to pick up his first PGA title. Coming up short on his approach to the par 5, Ballesteros was faced with a delicate approach to a tight pin position. Deciding to go for the birdie, he got too cute with the shot and dumped it in the sand. As it turned out, that was only the beginning of his problems. The Spaniard then skulled his sand shot over the green and into a lake. After a drop, Ballesteros chipped onto the green and eventually holed out for a triple-bogey 8. The snowman started Ballesteros toward a final-round 78.

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Kenny Perry lost the 1996 PGA Championship at Valhalla C.C. because he played the first playoff hole like someone who had, well, spent more than a half-an-hour in a TV booth. Upon finishing his round, Perry (above) visited CBS's broadcast team beside the 18th green and watched the action unfold -- a surprise move considering the number of players with a chance to catch him (Steve Elkington, Vijay Singh and Mark Brooks). Told by commentators Jim Nantz and Ken Venturi that he was free to go hit balls, Perry decided to stay. After Brooks made an up-and-down birdie to tie, Perry mistakenly thought he had time to hit some warm-up shots, but instead was ushered straight to the tee of the par-5 18th where he put his tee shot in deep grass on the left and never recovered. Brooks birdied for the win and Perry -- one of the game's best never to win a major -- was left to wonder what might have been. "I thought I would have time," Perry said. "I misjudged that. Maybe I let my mind wander."

Reading required

Making bogey on the 72nd hole to fall into a three-way tie with Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer wasn't the worst thing that happened to Dustin Johnson at the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. Failing to read a piece of paper with 97 words on it proved to be a much more devastating decision. Those words informed players that there were some 1,200 bunkers on the course and that, "All areas of the course that were designed and built as sand bunkers will be played as bunkers (hazards), whether or not they have been raked." When Johnson, not realizing he was in a bunker on the 18th hole, grounded his club, it resulted in a one-shot penalty, knocking him out of the playoff. "Perhaps I should have looked at the rules sheet a little harder," said Johnson. Probably so.

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